Let Us (X)Band Together – Remembering Early Long-Distance Gaming

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Let me take you back to a simpler time.

A time when the worst worry a gamer had to worry about was figuring out the code to make blood show up in Mortal Kombat.

A time when controllers were passed around so that every kid in the room could contribute to a two-player game.

But what if you could Hadoken some random gamer across town in Street Fighter II or jam on your neighbor’s Scottie Pippen in NBA Jam from the comfort of your parents’ living room?

That is exactly what the XBAND modem was supposed to accomplish.  Released for the Sega Genesis in 1994 and the Super Nintendo in 1995 in the United States, the modem was meant to start the revolution toward gaming with other gamers with the hardware and a working phone line.  While the compatible games list was limited and the modem was only in rotation for a couple of years- the network shut down in 1997- for a brief moment, people saw what gaming could and would be in the future.

I happened to be one of the kids whose parents purchased the XBAND back in the day, and let me tell you- it was a big deal for my pre-teen self.

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Walking Well-Trodden Ground -Super Nintendo – Soul Blazer – 1992

Soul Blazer000

SOUL BLAZER
Super Nintendo
Enix
1992
Genre: Action RPG

In 1992, before the years of SquareEnix, we all pretty much know what Squaresoft was doing with its time. Between Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger, and all of the other titles they managed to squeeze out, they pretty much dominated the RPG gaming sphere. Enix, however, did not slouch in those times, either, but you may be hard pressed to remember some of their properties from the time, as games like Actraiser and Paladin’s Quest were readily accessible on gaming shelves, but neither of them really reached the heights or longevity of Dragon Quest/Warrior.

When they teamed up to develop a series of games for Super Nintendo with developer Quintet, however, they managed to strike some now-nostalgic gold with the two that made it stateside, Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia. Growing up, I had played Illusion of Gaia and really enjoyed it, but Soul Blazer didn’t cross my radar until years later, what with me not realizing it was the predecessor to Gaia. According to sources, it also appears to be related to Actraiser, which isn’t too hard to connect the dots with.

So why did it fall into the obscurity that the other games around it seem to at least have a step up on?

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A Devilishly Good Time – SNES – Demon Crest – 1994

Demon's Crest (U) [!]000

Demon’s Crest
SNES
Capcom
© 1994
Genre: Horror Platformer

Admittedly, I haven’t had the most exposure to the Super Nintendo.  It’s not that I find it a bad system by any means, but I have a lack of exposure outside of big name titles and two player games I’d enjoy with friends.  When digging around to find out more about Ghouls n’ Ghosts, I found a spin-off series that I realized I had played back on my Game Boy – Gargoyle’s Quest.  In particular, though I had played the original game, I was intrigued to try Demon’s Crest, the entry in the series on the SNES.

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Empties Out Quick But Packs a Punch – Super Nintendo – Wild Guns – 1995

WILD GUNS
© 1995
Natsume
Genre: Action Shooter

Natsume is a company that doesn’t get a ton of press outside of the occasional wonder game and Harvest Moon. When I found Wild Guns, a rare shooter type of game from the company, I was intrigued. I decided to pop it in and give it a shot, and even now, I keep going back to the game. I suppose I’m getting to the end of my review before I get started though, huh?

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Never Had a Friend Like This! – Super Nintendo – Aladdin – 1993

Disney's Aladdin SNES Title Screen

Aladdin
1993
Capcom
Genre: Action Platformer

When I was younger, I certainly fell for the “game based on a movie so I’ve got to have it” ploy a few times.  Thankfully, since I was a big fan of Disney movies growing up, I managed to have more good games to play through than awful ones.  Anyone who played Disney games growing up knows that while there were some stinkers, they had some of the best movie-to-game translations in the business.  Case in point: Aladdin.  Now, Aladdin was released on various systems, and while the gameplay was not so different between platforms that it detracted from the concept, each system seemed to get its own version that was individual from the others.  Since I grew up on the Super Nintendo version, I decided to go back and play that one.  My apologies if you played through the Sega version and feel neglected as this review continues.

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